My family moved here in 1953 from Memphis, Tennessee. My dad was Charlie Parker's wife's brother, and the Parker family was the founding family of Mexico Beach. I was raised in the Mexico Beach Grocery which is where Beachwalk is now. In 1974, we built the hardware store and have been a family owned business ever since.
I served on the city council for 4 years in the mid-80s. In 2005, I ran again for city council, and less than 6 months after being elected, the mayor passed away. I was the mayor pro tem at the time, so I filled in as mayor and ended up serving in that position for 10 years. I decided to take a break in 2015 but then ran again in 2017 and I'm currently serving again as the mayor.
The most endearing thing about our community is the people. We're pretty laid back and we enjoy what we have because we have the ability to express ourselves and not have to be commercialized. We have so many people that come to town, whether they are snowbirds, visitors, or residents and I personally love seeing others enjoy what our community has to offer. As a business owner that serves the public, it's neat to be able to get to know your customers. They share their stories with you and through the years, I've made so many friends because of people who come to Mexico Beach because they love our quaintness, uniqueness and charm and because we take the time to invest in our community.
I seldom pay attention to anything in the Gulf until they say it's within 48 hours of landfall. So Tuesday we went to work just like it was any other day, but by noon, they had issued mandatory evacuation orders. By that afternoon, it was fairly obvious that we would have some sort of impact, but we went on with our day and decided to make a decision the next morning. So Wednesday, again, we got up and went to work. We didn't stay long but myself, my wife, my youngest son and a friend made the decision to stay in town at our house. We stayed calm, but we had obviously never experienced a storm of that magnitude moving at that speed.
By the grace of God, our house did remarkably well. We had some damage but it was livable. As far as everything else, my son's house was destroyed, the laundromat, the hardware store, some of the warehouses, they're gone. I didn't know that Mother Nature could tear up so much in such a short amount of time. About 4pm, we went outside. It was difficult to move around and we couldn't get out even if we wanted to. I just remember thinking about the beach side of 98 and our businesses near there and just wondering how bad it was going to be. But the next day, reality set in.
My son and I walked down to the hardware store and it was really hard to wrap your mind around the devastation. The closer we got to the businesses, I remember dealing with the emotions of knowing that what we had built over almost 40 years was most likely gone. Everything we were seeing as we were walking was just in rubble. We didn't really speak much on our walk because I think we were both just shocked. It was difficult to process.